At tonight’s meeting the Conway City Council will consider approving the condemnation of Lollie Bottoms land earmarked for the planned airport there.

For about six months negotiations with five landowners in the area have been ongoing. As of Monday, three landowners have come to an agreement, leaving the heirs of the late Emily Moon and the Williams family facing the possible condemnation of their land, in which the city could assume immediate ownership of the land with the issue of price paid for their 53 and 88 acres, respectively, to be sorted out afterwards, in a courtroom, by a judge.

An agreement between the city and property owners could still be reached without condemnation procedures, but the agreement would have to be reached quickly, according to Jack Bell, assistant to Mayor Tab Townsell.

"We have been in negotiations with both and feel like we are close with both of them, but we are running out of time, and we need to get this done by the end of the year," Bell said. 

"I don’t know if I’d say that this is last-second, but we’re in the final hour," he said by way of characterizing the city’s timeline.

Though the land would be condemned in accordance with the city’s plan for an airport, negotiations have been conducted on the city’s behalf by a negotiator retained by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"To date, this entire negotiation process has been in the FAA’s hands," Conway Development Corp. vice-president for governmental relations Jamie Gates said on Monday. "It’s a very well-defined process; there’s really no leeway or room for negotiating with someone subjectively."

The hurry to acquire the land results from the city’s allocation of federal funds for land acquisition, according to Gates. These funds came from the FAA’s 2009 funding cycle, Gates said, and should the city not provide the FAA assurance that the funds will be spent, the FAA may require reimbursement.

"The federal government does not like to budget money for projects and not have that money spent in a timely fashion," he said. 

On the subject of future federal funds that will allow for actual construction, Gates said that the new airport is "one of the FAA’s priorities," and that his organization has the FAA’s assurance that the airport plan will come to fruition.

"We’re going to move and relocate the airport, and we’re going to relocate it in the Lollie Bottoms," Gates said. "We’re going to continue at (CDC) to help the city build the airport as quickly as possible. We’ve got a safety issue to remedy, and the longer we wait the more it’s going to cost. The FAA is a partner in this. This is something that they want to see done, and it takes a lot of work to make sure everyone is treated fairly and everyone is accommodated and the airport is done in the right way."

In addition to considering land condemnation, the council will decide on paying the landowners who have reached agreements with the city.

These arrangements include the payment of $717,471 for 153.5 acres belonging to the Conway Development Corp. as well as .12 acres for aviation easements and damages, $600,916 for 125.65 acres belonging to the J.W. Brown Jr. and Patsy Ann Brown Revocable Trust as well as 23.94 for easements and damages and $181,370 for 34.53 acres belonging to Jerry and Margaret Pearson, plus damages.

In other business, an ordinance created by the Conway Police Department in conjunction with the Conway City Attorney’s office was removed from the agenda late Monday afternoon. The ordinance dealt in part with a new requirement that such businesses as pawn shops, jewelry stores and "flea markets" be required to hold some second-hand goods, including precious metals, for 15 days. This period was intended to give law enforcement and possibly the rightful owners of stolen property a "window" by which to locate the property before it is unwittingly sold to a third party, according to Chief of Police A.J. Gary.

Gary said that a detective has in the last few days been visiting with local business owners, and has heard from them that this waiting period "may be a little bit of a burden on the business owners without it being that big a benefit for us." 

"We’re going to work on it a little bit and see what can be improved," Gary said, adding that reducing the number of days would likely be one alteration when the ordinance is again brought before the council.

Also on the agenda is an ordinance waiving 2010 budget-cycle bids for the purchase of 12 new patrol cars for the Conway Police Department and a new fire truck for the Conway Fire Department. Townsell has said in recent months that the 2010 budget would be stretched thin to include these vehicle purchases, but the previous council meeting’s approval to reallocate Conway Sanitation Department reserve funds as general fund revenue created a means to do so without impacting other budget items.

Landers Brothers Chrysler Dodge Jeep would be awarded the patrol car contract, but the vehicles purchased would be Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors — possibly the department’s last batch of "Crown Vics," Gary said, as the model is slated to be discontinued.

The council will also consider approving the 2010 city budget, which has been drafted in expectation of zero growth over the 2009 fiscal year. Also to be discussed are the possibilities of levying a by-the-glass alcohol tax (a tax of 5 percent has been most commonly discussed by city officials) and a business license permit fee. The alcohol tax, if adopted, could be expected to buttress city funds by about $150,000 per year according to city forecasts, while the business license permit fee would not, in its first few years, be substantial enough to measurably impact city funds, according to Townsell.

The council will meet at 6:30 in the District Court building at 801 Parkway St.

The council will also consider: 

• The closing of a 15’ extended overhead electric utility easement located in part of the Block 6 of the west end addition at 2740 College Avenue and a portion of right of way located at the northeast southeast corner of Prince Street and Western Avenue after holding public hearings to discuss these closures;

• An ordinance to abandon a portion of the Western Avenue right of way at the northeast corner & southeast corner of Prince Street and Western Avenue;

• Accepting nominations for the Old Conway Review Design Board, Historic District, Commission and Oak Grove Cemetery Board;

• A resolution requesting the Faulkner County Tax Collector to place a certified lien on property located at 1845 Drury Lane as a result of incurred expenses by the City; 

• An ordinance to accept additional funding and appropriating additional grant revenue funds to Community Development Block Grant revenue;  

• An ordinance to rezone property located at 2018 Caldwell St., stretching north to Cross Street from R-1 residential to HR historic residential;

• The purchase of a Smartsensor Advance Detector Unit from Mid American Signal for the intersection of Donaghey and Dave Ward Drive; 

• The installation of speed humps on Freyaldenhoven Lane between Siebenmorgen Road and Theodore Jones Elementary School.  

• Annual bids for asphalt, gravel, concrete, concrete pipe, concrete work, and gasoline/diesel fuel for the City of Conway;

• The leasing of space in the Pine Street Community Center;

• An agreement with the Faulkner County Solid Waste Management District; 

• An ordinance waiving bids for contracted services with Terracon Consultants Inc. in conjunction with the City Landfill testing;

• An ordinance waiving competitive bids and appropriating funds for clearing services through Tucker Creek Bike Trail;

• A professional services agreement for an inspector at Conway Station Park.  

• And accepting annual bids for the Conway Police Uniforms.  

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)